Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Return to Pagosa Springs

Last year we were able to take a trip to Pagosa Springs, and we were so smitten with the area that when a weekend in the timeshare opened up again this summer we jumped on it.  To be honest I remembered loving it there, and wanting to stay longer, but I really couldn't remember exactly why.  I was half wishing that we hadn't signed ourselves up for another weekend there when we left late and found ourselves in a little town about halfway there, frustrated with the toddler in the backseat crabbing for food.  A visit to Sonic made it seem fun again.  Nothing like milkshakes to make everyone happy.  We continued on our way, but noticed some strange dust clouds on the road...dust clouds that turned out to be bug clouds.  We arrived at the timeshare after dark, and discovered the bug clouds circling around the porch light of our unit, and then in our unit once we had opened the door to drag us and our belongings inside.  Pretty gross.  Fortunately, I love those little pamphlets you get in hotel lobbies that advertise things to do in the area.  The selection there was pretty bleak, so I just snatched a few things, and one of them was for bike trails...and that turned into our fly swatter.  Justin spent a fair amount of time conducting a massacre of the mosquitoes before we felt like it was safe to go to bed.  He earned the admiration of Vivian, who confided in me that "Dad is a great killer Mom."  Immediately the next morning I knew why we had done this again.  It's beautiful there.  BEAUTIFUL.

We initially thought that we would use this weekend to ride the Durango Silverton Railroad.  However, it would have taken all day, and we decided that we would rather save that for another trip when we could be there a little longer.  Instead we struck out for a guided tour to Chimney Rock National Monument (if you ever get a chance to do this you must take the guided tour to actually hike up to the Chimney Rock, the self-guided tour is reportedly kind of lame).  We arrived out there at 10:15 and Justin requested tickets for the 11 o'clock tour.  I stayed in the car with the kids.  He came back to the car with tickets, but said that the people in the ticketing cabin were panicking that we would miss it, and acting like we were really cutting it close.  We were very confused since it was a 2 mile drive to the trailhead, and we still had 45 minutes.  When we arrived it turned out that they just assumed that we wanted to join the 9 o'clock tour halfway through.  We still don't know where they got that idea.  So we sat out there in a shady spot for 30 minutes or so battling swarms of bugs, and trying to keep Vivian from jumping off the nearby ledge.

At 11 o'clock it was still just us, so our tour started with a rather elderly volunteer docent named Nancy.  Nancy was very nice.  Nancy was veeeerrrryyy ssssslllloooowww.  She would elect to randomly stop in the middle of the trail to slowly dispense information to us, that we didn't care about, while we stood in the blazing hot sun, and then march past the shady areas as though she hated us.  I felt like the 30 minute tour with Nancy should have really only taken 5-10, in fact I saw another guide conduct it that quickly.  Not Nancy.  She took her time, and she was brimming over with all sorts of speculative "facts."  A sideways glance at my husband almost sent me into a fit of laughter.  Fortuitously a young Forest Ranger named Rachel relieved Nancy for the "upper" portion of the tour.

Rachel was much more of an archaeological skeptic, which I very much appreciate.  She also moved a lot faster, something else that I appreciated.
That's Rachel off to the right

That's Nancy on the left.  She did accompany us on the upper hike, but wasn't in charge.


Clearly Ivan found this to be riveting.

Really beautiful view from up on top

Indian ruins that you visit on the way up.

Chimney Rock




This sign up there cracked us up since it wasn't really a very hard hike at all.
It was very fun, the views were great, and we aren't sorry that we chose to do it.  Vivian was kind of a basket case by the time we got down.  Justin tried to get a picture of her in her giraffe shirt for Grandma Goodale.  Sorry, this is the best he could manage: 
She really loves this shirt
After the hike we took a lunch break, and then loaded up the kids and decided to do a scenic drive while they napped.  It was great, they napped, we saw beautiful scenery.  Finally Ivan woke up and we needed to pull over for a nursing break.  I picked a random little park by the side of the highway.  We noticed when I pulled over that there was a stream there.  It was perfect for wading and the water was calling my name.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity, and eventually Justin was coaxed out of the car to join us.  
Ivan seemed a little uncertain about this at first.
It starts out as wading...

inevitably looks more like swimming.

Whatever you call it, she loved it.


Showing off his new little teeth


Swinging his feet through the water was his favorite.
 We're so glad that we did this.  It was a short stop, but the water was perfect and it was really fun.  Vivian told us later that night that it was her favorite activity all day.  It's always the simple stuff that we just throw in and don't really plan that she loves the most.

We wanted to cram in one more hike, but thought better of it, and instead we took the kids swimming in the timeshare pool, and were planning a trip to the Pagosa Springs Riverwalk for after dinner.  After dinner the mosquitoes were back, and Vivian and I appeared to be covered in bites from the previous night and Chimney Rock (despite wearing bug spray).  Justin and Ivan don't seem to attract them the way Vivian and I do.  We decided that maybe a trip back down near the water wasn't the best idea for the evening hours.  Justin ventured out on the balcony for pictures of the sunset, and we rescheduled the riverwalk for the next day after church.

 

Speaking of church the next day, we met a man there who introduced himself, and asked how we were liking the area.  He then announced that he and his wife loved their first visit there so they ended up purchasing land during their vacation and eventually made the move.  We're not quite there yet.  Vivian was a huge hit in the ward, so much so that the nursery leader told Justin that she would like us to move there, and told me that "she's such a doll.  You're lucky that I gave her back to you."  She's been on a terrible naughty streak lately, so we were a little relieved that things had gone so well.  We got it out of her later on that day that they fed her cupcakes.  That kind of explains things.  We did not buy property, but we did visit the riverwalk before we left town. 
No idea what she's doing here, but definitely enjoying herself. 

She loves dandelions

It's beautiful, and later on in the year, when the water isn't running so fast people float it.

The resort on the right is a hot springs resort.  The hot water drains into the river, so allegedly the river is fairly warm.
The San Antonio Riverwalk it is not.  It's very pretty, and interesting, but mid-day isn't the best time of day to walk this thing.  There is next to no shade, and it was blazing hot.  it's a 1.7 mile loop if you do the whole thing.  We did not.  It was just too hot, and not interesting enough once you got into the "wetlands" area to entice us to continue. We cut it short loaded up, and started our drive home.

We stopped on the way out to see Treasure Falls.  We've read that the falls are really beautiful, but since you can also see them from the parking lot they didn't seem that interesting.  When we got there we realized that there are some trails that appear to go up to the top of the falls that seem like a decent hike, so maybe next time.  
Treasure Falls
We also stopped at a scenic overlook on our way out, for one last look into that valley: 

We loved this little weekend vacation, and who knows, maybe some day we'll buy our own little patch of land there. 

San Antonio, Black Style

The Kerry Black family reunion this year took place in San Antonio, Texas.  Maybe I was the only one that was a bit astonished that all of the kids managed to make it out there?  We did though, and it was my misfortune that the only member of the family that couldn't attend was actually Justin.

At first I decided to sit this one out, but after a fair amount of deliberation I determined that these reunions are just as important, for all of the cousins as they are for their parents.  Justin and I decided that I should take the kids and go without him.  I wanted to drive, but I was apparently the only person who thought that was a good idea.  Flying alone with a toddler, a baby, two car seats, and our luggage could be done, but I felt all panicked and anxious just thinking about it.  Thankfully Andrew stepped up and volunteered to fly to Denver first so that he could accompany me and mine to San Antonio.  I'm so glad he did.  I would have made it, but my kids might have wound up permanently less happy people had I been forced to tackle that one alone.  It went pretty smoothly with him along to help me out.

So San Antonio...I guess I just didn't know anything about that place.  In my mind I had pictured a burned off kind of desert.  In retrospect I have no idea why, because it's not like I hadn't heard that it was going to be humid there.  The Alamo just always looked so deserty in pictures I suppose.  Before we even made it outside the humidity hit me and I realized my error.  That being said, it was really beautiful and green, so nothing like the image I'd had in my mind.

I think that Andrew and I were the last ones to arrive.  We drove straight to John and Michelle's house where a lot of the family was meeting up to wait for check-in time at the New Braunfels timeshare.  Our timing is terrible.  We arrived just as everyone else was preparing for departure.  We spent only a few minutes there greeting people and getting our first introduction to the latest family addition, Atlee Michelle Black:
This seems to be her most of the time.  She's still tiny, and very laid back when she is awake.

John loves his boys, but he's a total marshmallow with his two daughters.
From there, Andrew left me to join back up with his wife, and was replaced with Neal.  (Since I don't have a smart phone, and Justin has still not followed through on his promises to buy me a GPS, I had to have a smart phone person with me every time I drove somewhere.)  We stopped in for our first visit at Whataburger.  I still haven't figured out why everyone in Texas seemed to pronounce it "Water Burger," but it was delicious.  Add the jalapenos for $.50, totally worth it.

We checked in at the timeshare and after settling in for a bit the family congregated at one of the units for a family dinner.  We planned together that night to leave the next morning for downtown San Antonio to visit the Alamo and the riverwalk.  

The next morning we left to follow through on that plan.  Unfortunately, my dad had a bad fall a few days prior to departure, and while we had hoped that he would be recovered and ready to join us, he was still in a great deal of pain (subsequently it was discovered that he had fractured his back in the fall) and elected to stay behind.  Jared volunteered to stay behind with him.  

The Alamo...it's tiny, and to be totally honest, not that interesting.  So other people have said this to me, but I've disregarded them, because people also told me that Mt. Rushmore was just kind of not that interesting, and I thought that Mt. Rushmore was fantastic.  The Alamo is really not very interesting though.  Sadly, it's true.
Congregating across the street from the Alamo
The Alamo
These two hit it off



Always a fan of Aunt Kate.  This is in line to get into the Alamo

Apparently you aren't supposed to take pictures inside of the Alamo...oops.

Waiting outside for everyone to finish up so that we can move on to the riverwalk.
This would have been a cuter picture if they weren't afraid of me, and therefore pretending to not see me.  I guess this is why we do reunions.  They hugged me goodbye when we left.
Next we walked from the Alamo to lunch at Whataburger again.  There's one around every corner.  It's like Texans version of In N Out, only sorry, I still think In N Out is better.  From there we continued on to the Riverwalk.  Somewhere in there Meredith and her people got separated from the group.  I'm not entirely sure when or how that happened.  All I know for certain is that they ended up on a different boat than the rest of the family that departed from a different port.  John started shouting "Jake!?  Jake!?  Jake!?" Every time our boat passed another boat.  The younger brothers followed his lead.  At some point we actually crossed paths with the boat the Partridge's had boarded.  This is a picture Jake took of our boat:
The tour guide on our boat was openly irritated that he'd been interrupted.
The riverwalk is really green, and really pretty, but the water does look very dirty
After the trip downtown we returned to the timeshare for naps.  I have a love/hate thing with naps.  I love how happy they are afterwards, and it's great to get a break sometimes, but most of the time naps just get in the way.  That killed the rest of the daylight hours for those of us with nappers.  We made an evening visit to the timeshare pool with the Hexbergs after late naps and dinner.

The next day we set off for Schlitterbahn.  My dad again had to remain behind, alone this time.  For anyone reading this who doesn't know (because I didn't know, but maybe because I'm oblivious), it's a water park.  A huge water park.  It sounded so fun.  It will probably be fun for us when our youngest hits maybe 5.  I've taken to occasionally teasing Vivian by telling her that we're going to go back to Schlitterbahn.  Partly because the way she enunciates Schlitterbahn is hilarious to me, and partly because I'm amused by her look of concern.  I'm a great Mom.  So anyway, we all went to Schlitterbahn, and we got the group discount which is great because the place costs an arm and leg (but we all loved that it's a one flat fee and none of this nickel and diming business that you encounter at other parks, so tube rentals and life jackets are included).  There are some members of the family that loved this day.  Loved it.  Then there are some of us that spent a lot of time in the picnic area with small children.  People like me and my two pregnant sisters, and Michelle with her newborn.  My mom took Vivian, Jill and Fox over to the kiddie pool for a while, and they legitimately seemed to be loving it over there.  The water was a little cold though, and Ivan crabbed when I tried to put him in it...so back to the picnic area for us.  Finally he dropped off for his morning nap and with Atlee napping my mom agreed to watch our sleeping babies so that Michelle and I could take Vivian on a slide.  It seemed like it was going to be a great time.  It wasn't.  The line was super long, she got impatient, it was nap time and she was crabby by the time we got to the front of the line.  So parenting fail here, they loaded her up sent her down the slide without me, and I let them.  I was so stunned that they were sending a 2 year old alone and holding me back that it didn't really register that the life guard person was a high schooler and I should have just shoved past her.  I should have, but I didn't.  So Vivian braved a rather lengthy water slide alone in her tube, and by the time we got to the bottom she was a bit hysterical.  For the next 24 hours she would rub it in by periodically asking me "why did you let them send me alone all by myself Mom?"  So shortly after that we packed up and went back to the time share for naps, and she spent the evening hanging out with her Hexberg cousins.  Apparently Devon and Annette made Colton tough it out on his own all day.  I imagine he handled it a bit better than my Viv.  This wasn't my favorite day of the reunion.  I saw the male members of my family only in passing, which I found to be quite annoying.  From what I hear they all loved it and thought that it was a great time.  So I'm sure their take on this day is a lot different than mine.  

The next day we spent the morning at the pool with all of the cousins, and even Dad was able to make it down to the pool area to watch all the little cousins playing in the water.  

There was one other family at the pool, pretty sure that they hated us.
After that there were again naps, and in the evening...to be honest I have no idea what we did that evening.  It must not have been terribly eventful because I really can't remember.  

However, the next morning Paige joined me in my car and some of us set off for the Natural Bridges Wildlife Ranch.  I think that this actually might have been my favorite activity.  It's one of those drive-thru zoos.  This one they provide you with a little baggy of food for the animals at the entrance, which kind of instantly makes it more interesting.  There are multiple signs and flyers that tell you to just drop the food out of the car window and DO NOT feed the animals from you hand.  Right off the bat we saw the lady in the car in front of us dangling her arm out the window trying to lure the animals closer.  Paige and I were joking around about how they couldn't read instructions, and then we turned around and saw her mom doing the same thing out of the car behind us.  I guess we're the nerdy rule followers.  So initially it was just a lot of deer, and that wasn't terribly exciting.  I mean foreign deer.  You know, like African deer.  They have different names, and different antlers, but let's be real, these are really just deer.  Then we looped around and saw some giraffes and ostriches.  You're not allowed to feed the giraffes, and the ostriches were just chilling under some trees and didn't seem at all interested in the pellets of food we hurled out of the car in their direction.  Next we passed the Rhinos, which obviously you're not allowed to feed, and some camels that kept their distance, and then there were zebras, that apparently approached the other vehicles, but didn't have much interest in our car.
John and Michelle had better luck with the zebras than we did.
We were pretty okay with that though since according to a lot of signage in the area they bite.  Then we continued on to these weird deer animals that unexpectedly shoved their ENTIRE head into the car!
This thing was fearless, we were not.  We were kind of freaking out
Her favorite, and simultaneously not her favorite moment.




Neal figured out a way to feed them, get the close encounter, and keep them from shoving their head in your car.  Genius.
So next up were more ostriches that still seemed to be entirely uninterested in us, but chased each other around in what was oddly one of the most ridiculous, yet graceful things I've ever seen.  Their legs are scary strong.  The emus on the other hand...I think that's what they are anyway, were very eager to be fed, and like the weird aggressive deer animals would shove their heads all the way into your car.  Their entire head, in your car.  I freaked out and spilled the little animal pellets everywhere, and then was nervous to roll the window back down lest I get pecked to death by one of them trying to get the little pieces of animal food all over Vivian and I.

John and his little buddy.  The have a distinctly crazy look about them.
We finished the drive and then went to lunch in the cafeteria.  After that most everyone else left, but Neal switched cars to mine, Paige went back with her parents and I took mine to see the monkeys, the goats in the petting zoo (short-lived experience since my favorite pants got chewed on by a tiny baby goat), and fed the koi fish that were huge and kind of gross.  We still had some leftover animal food so we drove through the zoo one more time (you can drive through as many times as you'd like) and got rid of the rest of the food before we headed back to the timeshare for abbreviated nap time.  

Following the zoo the majority of the family congregated at a big park nearby and let the kids get out and enjoy some time together on the equipment there.
Vivian and Fox.  They all took a turn on this slide set I think.

Vivian and Winnie

Vivian and Jill 
These little bouncy animals were really cute, and they seemed to love them.  



Fox and I
After everyone was sufficiently hot and sweaty we went to dinner at a place called the Gristmill.  The food was delicious, but it was outside, and unbelievably hot and sweaty.  Furthermore, it was such a huge group that there was no mistaking our waiters dislike for us.  We were polite and all, but he was just not thrilled with us and our herds of children who were all rather unruly after a long day without naps.  

Following dinner we saw some fireflies, which is exciting.  I thought that it was exciting.  Vivian seemed to not really grasp what was so interesting, but that's okay.  We drove home and found a toad sitting in the road that Neal caught, and took to show his nephews, which I gather was pretty interesting.
Showing it off to West and Colton.  I wasn't there, but West doesn't look terribly impressed.
The next morning we got up, checked out and went to John and Michelle's house.  Although the reunion was scheduled to end on Friday, nobody actually scheduled a flight out that day because the flights the next day were so much less expensive.  So we hung out there for the day, and then I left with my kids to go check into a hotel for the evening  Paige agreed to come along, much to Vivian's delight.  I gather that the others stayed up late playing card games.  My kids aren't so good about late nights, so we got ruled out for that fun.
Whatever he was saying I know it was funny, and I'm sorry that I missed it.  I think my brother John is hilarious.  Hilarious.





It looks so serious.

Very serious.


No idea why Mom chose not to participate
So there you have it.  The next day I brought Paige back, picked up Andrew, and we made our way back to the Denver airport.  We said our goodbyes to Andrew (amazing travel buddy, thanks again Andrew) and waited TWO HOURS at baggage claim for the car seats and bag.  We actually spent more time at baggage claim than we did in the air.  Very annoying, but we spent the two hours with Justin, and it was great to be with him again.  After that we stopped at Smashburger for much needed food on the way home and that experience left me wishing that it had been a Whataburger.  I don't know that I'll do a reunion without Justin again, so hopefully he'll be able to attend next year, because it's always good to spend some time with my siblings!